For the last year or so I have been thinking a lot about working towards becoming more self-sufficient by growing and producing our own food, among other things. It started off when I read the fabulous book Low-Cost Living: Live better, spend less which explains the ways in which you can save money by producing your own food as well as other good money saving tips. I found the book so inspiring and it, along with other things, has made me yearn for a more simple, self-sustained way of life. I believe this way of living provides many benefits, not just to the bank balance but also to the body and soul. After all, there are many health benefits to eating organic food. There are also many moral issues which question the acceptability of eating mass-produced, genetically enhanced fruit and vegetables and also the eggs produced by caged hens. Therefore, there are advantages to knowing where your food comes from.
The welfare of hens living in battery farm conditions is a grave concern, particularly because this is where many people get their eggs from. Hens bred into these conditions live their whole, short, sorry life in a cage with sometimes space limited to the size of an A4 piece of paper! They have little space to move and some cannot even sit down. Due to cramped conditions they are often subject to injuries from other hens caused by feather pecking and this has led to many of the hens in these conditions have their beaks trimmed as a way of reducing this risk. Restricted movement, on top of the fact that chickens in these conditions have been produced to be egg-making machines which leads to a depleted store of calcium in their bodies, leads to a high incidence of bone fractures caused by osteoparosis. These somber facts are heartbreaking and after researching I feel I can never eat an egg from a caged hen again. This brings me onto the main topic of this post; to introduce my new pet chickens!
I often had chickens in the garden as a child. My parents enjoyed keeping them and we all enjoyed the fresh eggs and baby chicks, which we acquired occasionally, as well as the joy of seeing chickens wandering around the garden. My mother would feed them leftover food from the kitchen so food rarely went to waste. I had been thinking of getting some chickens for the last few months, mainly for the eggs but also for the children as a way of teaching them about these wonderful creatures, where our eggs come from and the responsibility animal care.
Finally last weekend we took the plunge. We visited a local, small chicken breeder and picked up four chicks. I went for chicks for two reason;, firstly because I wanted to give the children the experience of watching them grow up to be fully grown chickens and, secondly, because we could keep them indoors for a while until we had a chicken coop and run sorted for them in the garden!
The children were so excited to bring them home. They watched the chicks for hours in their cardboard box which would be their home for the next few days. They fed them, gave them water, touched them and talked to them with wild excitement in their eyes. It is a joy to watch.
Having a toddler does mean I have to keep an eye on the chicks as he gets very eager to give them food, drinks and even toys! I've had to rescue a few small toys from the box as well as a carton of apple juice! Also, he tips in food (such as his leftover breakfast cereal) and drink occasionally meaning I have to completely clean out the box and put fresh bedding in. However, it is a learning curve for us all and I'm sure he will learn eventually!
So, without further ado let me introduce to you my new chicks! There are two Welsummer and Bluebelle crosses, one Welsummer and Light Sussex cross and one Black Jersey Giant and Buff Sussex cross.